Archives and Manuscript Repository for the Continuing Presbyterian Church

Manuscript Collections :
Synthetic Collections :

Nathaniel Smyth McFetridge

Synthetic Collection #218
Box #319

Content Summary: This synthetic or gathered collection consists primarily of various editions of Calvinism in History, the one widely distributed publication issued under Rev. McFetridge's name. A file with additional biographical information has been added by the staff of the Historical Center. To date, we have been unable to locate a photograph or other portrait of McFetridge.

Span dates: 1882 - 2004 Size: 0.25 cu. ft. (one box)

Access: This collection is open to researchers.

Preferred citation:
Nathaniel Smyth McFetridge Synthetic Collection, PCA Historical Center, St. Louis, Missouri.

Biographical Sketch—
Nathaniel Smyth McFetridge was born in Ireland, 4 August 1842. [According to ancestry.com, Nathaniel was born in Ardina Dunboe, Derry, Ireland on 4 Aug 1840 to Archibald McFetridge and Jane McLenaghan. Nathaniel S married Rebecca and had 4 children. He passed away on 3 Dec 1886 in Minneapolis, Hennepin, Minnesota, USA.].  His parents immigrated to the United States while he was still a child and Nathaniel was raised in Catasauqua, Pennsylvania.  His formal education began at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania.  While attending there, he won the school’s Fowler Prize for an essay on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.  McFetridge graduated from Lafayette in 1864, shortly before the elevation of the Rev. William C. Cattell to the presidency of Lafayette. 

Nathaniel Smyth
[4 August 1842 - 3 December 1886]

(to date, we have not been able to discover
a photograph or portrait of Rev. McFetridge)

McFetridge began his studies for the ministry at Western Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, graduating there in 1867.  He was ordained into the ministry by the Presbytery of Erie (PCUSA), being installed in 1868 as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Oil City, PA.  That church had been organized in 1861 with twelve members and two ruling elders.  His predecessor, the Rev. W.P. Moore, had served the Oil City congregation as stated supply since 1863. 

Whatever the cause, a major loss of membership in the Oil City congregation, from 195 in 1872 to the 151 members reported in 1873, may have been what prompted his relocation to the Wakefield Presbyterian Church of Germantown, PA in 1874.  Transferring his credentials, Rev. McFetridge was received by the Presbytery of Philadelphia, North and served as the first pastor of the Wakefield congregation, from 1874 until 1885.  It is interesting to note that the congregation began as the Wakefield Sunday-school, located in Fisher’s Hollow, PA.  This group was organized in 1856 by Quakers (Society of Friends, Orthodox), and was constituted in part by members of the Fisher family who had immigrated from Wakefield, England.  Active participation in the school by  Philadelphia-area Presbyterians eventually superceded the more subdued methods of the Quakers, and by 1873 the decision was made to establish a Presbyterian congregation.   With the assistance of three other Presbyterian churches in Germantown, a site was secured and almost the entire membership of the School, faculty and students alike, joined in the organization of a new Wakefield Presbyterian Sunday-school.  It was this group that then formed on 4 May 1874 the new congregation that occupied the chapel erected on Main Street below Fisher’s Lane.  Under Rev. McFetridge’s leadership, the church grew from 22 members to over 200 members at the time of his departure.

He is noted in the 1885 Minutes of General Assembly (PCUSA) as without charge, but the circumstances of his leaving the Wakefield church are now lost to history.  He relocated to the vicinity of St. Paul, Minnesota and was received by the Presbytery of St. Paul. Rev. McFetridge had been elected to a post as Professor of Greek and Modern Languages at the Macalester College, which opened in 1885 with five professors on its staff.  Rev. McFetridge was residing in St. Paul at the time of his death on 3 December 1886, at the age of 44.

Noted honors included the honorary Doctor of Divinity degree, awarded by Lafayette College. In 1878 he brought the Annual Sermon before the Brainerd Evangelical Society of Lafayette College.  The Brainerd Society was named in honor of David Brainerd, and was Layfayette’s first student-led Christian organization.  The Society was founded in 1833 and was in existence until 1956, making it the longest running student organization on that campus.  The year before Rev. McFetridge spoke, the Brainerd Society had come into affiliation with the Young Men’s Christian Association.  Other speakers before the Brainerd Society included Matthew Allison in 1854, James W. Dale in 1862 and Thomas Hasting Robinson in 1867.

The Minutes of the Wakefield Presbyterian Church of Germantown, PA are preserved at the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia, PA and these include the years of Rev. McFetridge’s pastorate, 1874-1885.

Bibliography for Nathaniel Smyth McFetridge—

An essay on the Prologue of Chaucer's Canterbury tales
(s.l. : s.n., 1864), 16pp.; 22cm.  [This was McFetridge’s winning submission for the Fowler Prize at Lafayette, and so it is likely that it was published in Easton, PA by the College.  Copies have been located at the New York Public Library; Lafayette College and Brown University]

Memorial sermon : preached in the Wakefield Presbyterian Church, Germantown, July 13, 1879. Philadelphia : Press of Burk & M'Fetridge, 1879. Pb, 17pp.; 23cm. [Sermon in commemoration of William Adamson. Copies of the sermon have been located at Emory University’s Pitts Theological Library; Lafayette College; and the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia]

Calvinism in history. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1882. Westcott & Thomson, Stereotypers and Elctrotypers, Philada. 157 p.; 18 cm. Four known printings by the PCUSA Board of Publication:
(a.) 1882: Probably first edition, hardback, with embossed boards; two variations of embossing have been found.
(b.) 1882: Westminster Cheap Series. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication.
1887 or later: Westminster Paper Series. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath School Work, 1319 Walnut Street.
(d.) 1912: Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-school Work. Dark green boards, 157pp.; 18cm.
Later editions:
1989 - Edmunton, AB, Canada : Still Water Revival Books. Paperback, xi, 120pp.; 22cm.
(f.) 2004 - Not pictured below: Birmingham, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books. Paperback, 116 p.; 22cm. This printing adds an introductory essay, "What Is Calvinism" by Benjamin B. Warfield, pp. 1-4..

Thompson, Robert Ellis and Nathaniel S. McFetridge, The dear man of God : Doctor Martin Luther of blessed memory. 1483-1883 ; proceedings at the observance of the fourth centenary of his birth, in the Presbyterian Church of Abington in Pennsylvania ; with a memorial discourse (Philadelphia : s.n., 1883), 43pp.; 23cm. [the latter by N.S. McFetridge; copies located at the Yale University Library; New York Historical Society; Lafayette College; Lutheran Theological Seminary; and the Presbyterian Historical Society]

(a.) 1882 hardback, embossed pattern 1
(b.) 1882 hardback, embossed pattern 2
(c.) 1882 paperback
(d.) 1887-1912 paperback
(e.) 1912 hardback :
(f.) 1989 paperback :

Coffin, Selden J., Record of the Men of Lafayette. Easton, PA: Skinner & Finch, Printers, 1879, p. 66.

Minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.,
(New York: Presbyterian Board of Publications, individual volumes for the years 1872 – 1887).

White, William P., The Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia (Philadelphia : Allen, Lane & Scott, 1895), pg. 151.

Other sources to consult—

Program of exercises held in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of organization of the First Presbyterian Church of Oil City, Pennsylvania (Oil City, PA : Semi-Centennial Committee of the First Presbyterian Church, 1912), 31pp.; 23cm.  [copies held by the Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia, and the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Reeves, Francis B., A Brief Sketch of Wakefield Presbyterian Church and Sunday School, Germantown Avenue below Fisher’s Lane, Philadelphia, 1856-1910

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